Emile Balland, Coteaux du Giennois Les Beaux Jours Blanc (2017)
Grape: Sauvignon Blanc Geography: Loire Valley, France Appellation: Coteaux du Giennois
Emile Balland is a tall man. Perhaps it’s seeing the world from such a physically elevated position that allows him to take the long view when it comes to his vineyards and wine making. Standing at the top of his steep 0.8 hectare vineyard in Sancerre, looking out onto the rest of the appellation, you get a feeling of exhilaration from the beauty of the view. Or maybe it’s just being out of breath. While Emile ran up this slope in steady, long strides, the rest of us trudged up behind him huffing and puffing. Cecille, Emile’s wife, just shook her head and laughed at the good-natured show off she married.
Domaine Reine Juliette, Syrah Grenache Rosé (2017)
Grapes: Syrah and Grenache Geography: Languedoc-Roussillon, France Appellation: Pays d’Oc
Weingut Stefan Meyer, Ein Liter Rhodt (2016)
Grapes: Portugieser, Dornfelder, and St. Laurent Geography: Pfalz, Germany Appellation: Pfalz
With a history in their village going back to the 1700s, Stefan Meyer’s family is as much a part of the terroir of Rhodt unter Reitburg as the clay and loam soils their vines are planted to. These vines, which lie along the border of the Palatinate forest, cover 16 ha distributed among 70 different small plots. Considering that Stefan’s grandfather Karl Hermann Meyer started the estate with 4 ha in 1954, it’s clear that growth here is done in a measured and thoughtful way, only adding the best plots available and never choosing quantity over quality.
Stefan, who took over the estate from his father Willi in 2011 after apprenticing at Bassermann Jordan, continues to innovate at the estate while maintaining what he calls the “powerful tradition” of his grandfather. This innovation includes harvesting and sorting all the fruit by hand, and eliminating the use of any chemicals in their vineyards. Currently the estate is in the process of being certified organic by Ecovin. The results of this natural approach can be seen easily when walking in the vines bordering their “conventional” neighbors. Where the spaces between vines in Stefan’s vineyards are alive with natural grasses and cover crops, the next row over is desiccated and gray. And of course the proof is also in the bottle, and Stefan’s are some of the best wines (and best values) coming out of the Pfalz today.
Along with the traditional Riesling, Stefan is farming the local red varieties Portugieser, Sankt Laurent, and Dornfelder for his cuvée Ein Liter Rhodt, a pun on the grape color and the village name.
This juicy, easy drinking red wine bottled in liter size is the ideal wine to bring to a picnic or a party. Made from a blend of Portugieser, Saint Laurent and Dornfelder. Full of bright red fruit, chappy minerality and mild tannins. Enjoy lightly chilled with a variety of snacks and hors d’oeuvres.
Moissenet-Bonnard, Crémant de Bourgogne (NV)
Sometimes, when the baton is passed from one generation to another at an estate, there is a concern that the winemaking or vineyard work will change in some way that will compromise the quality or even break with family tradition. However, after spending just a few minutes in the vines or in the cellar with Emmanuelle-Sophie, the daughter of Jean-Louis Moissenet-Bonnard, you know the estate is in very good hands, and that, perhaps, its greatest days are ahead of it. Emmanuelle-Sophie officially took over the estate with the 2014 vintage after working alongside her father for many years and receiving degrees in agronomy, biology, viticulture (along with her work at the family estate, she teaches these subjects at the college level).
Now that she is heading up the estate, Emmanuelle-Sophie continues her father’s dedication to working the vines as naturally as possible. They officially consider themselves lutte-raisonée, since one of their neighbors is organic and the other is not, so they can’t fully control what treatments may blow over onto their vines. But for the past 15 years they have used no chemicals in their own vineyards. The large amount of ladybugs and spiders, which are attracted to the geraniums that grow among the vines, help keep down the population of more harmful insects. And they are blessed with micro-climates that don’t develop botrytis, so even ‘bordeaux mixture’ is unnecessary.
Mostly Pinot Noir with a touch of Chardonnay, this Crémant is rich with subtle earthy notes. The palate is toasty and dry, with flavors of quince and almonds. A fantastic value for a generous sparkling wine.